The quest for higher patient satisfaction scores seems to be the holy grail of healthcare these days. Or is it more a catch 22?
Enacted in 2012, the Affordable Care Act implemented a policy that withholds a certain percentage of Medicare reimbursement to providers and then awarding those dollars only to those hospitals with the highest patient satisfaction scores (in addition to other basic care standards) - with top performers getting a little extra bonus from the pool of withheld funds.
So while everybody is losing money from services provided, only a select few are getting it back. And when you're looking at a pool of approximately $1.8 billion to earn back, it's understandable that healthcare providers and manufacturers are tripping over themselves to improve the patient experience and drive up patient satisfaction scores.
Providers concerned satisfaction does not equal quality care
Recently, there has been growing concern that in the rush to have happier patients, providers may be prone to put pleasing the patient over treatment that may be best for the patient citing examples of over-prescribing of antibiotics and pain killers due to patient insistence.
There may be some data to back that up. In "The cost of satisfaction: a national study of patient satisfaction, health care utilization, expenditures, and mortality," the authors compared satisfaction scores with variables such as self-rated health status, health care utilization, health care expenditures, prescription drug expenditures, and future mortality. After excluding patients in poor health, the authors found that higher patient satisfaction was associated with higher inpatient admissions, greater health care and prescription drug costs, and increased mortality.
Even in the imaging community, there is debate over the efficacy of equipment and devices designed primarily for comfort at the sacrifice of efficacy. For instance, it is acknowledged that open MRI scanners are not as accurate as closed bore units, but they help a good amount of people better tolerate the exam. More recently, the introduction of curved mammography paddles to decrease the discomfort of compression are causing concern that image quality will be compromised.
The overall feeling from healthcare providers is that comfort is not always the same thing as healthcare and at times, the "customer" is not always right.
In their op-ed piece "The Importance of Patient Satisfaction: A Blessing, a Curse, or Simply Irrelevant?" (Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, January, 2017), authors Justin B. Cohen, MD, MS, Terence M. Myckatyn, MD, and Keith Brandt, MD write, “The focus on patient feedback has already skewed hospital administrators’ agendas, and long-term hospital plans now center on renovating the physical buildings, elevators, lobbies, and patient floors, and also investing in luxuries such as valet parking and gourmet meals,” they noted. “One could argue that these costly expenses have more to do with the perception of health care quality rather than actual outcomes."
Of course, the authors do not negate the benefit of measure that improve patient satisfaction. But they do propose changing how it is measured - that patient satisfaction should be put in context of proven care quality improvement. They also argue that making patient satisfaction specialty-specific may help in ensuring it actually measures the quality outcomes as perceived by the patient.
The "wow" factor
What would it say about you and your facility when a patient goes out of their way to tell the world about something you did that really helped them get through a difficult situation? It would definitely brand you as a place that provides excellent, empathetic care - a place where patients want to go and a place where like-minded professionals want to work.
As a manufacturer in the healthcare industry, we don't always know how our customers' patients feel about their care or, for that matter, our products that are used during their exam. But with Elequil aromatabs®, aromatherapy for the clinical setting, we certainly do.
Since its introduction we have received many unsolicited patient testimonials on how this product offered at their healthcare facility really helped and made an impression on them.
Here are 3 recent ones I'd like to share with you that demonstrate how sometimes simple is all you need to make a big difference in your patient's perception of quality care:
Lavender-Sandalwood a perfect blend and really helped me relax
"Last summer my husband had emergency surgery and had to stay in the hospital for several days. I stayed and never left his side. As anyone who has slept at a hospital knows it is a miserable and uncomfortable experience, especially considering I am prone to anxiousness. I found these little packets in the bag they leave the patient with bathroom essentials and figured I'd try them. The Lavender-Sandalwood was the scent that we had been given. It was a perfect blend and really helped me relax. I stuck it on my upper chest so I could easily inhale it and the scent easily lasted 24 hours. I'm definitely ordering more!!"— Debbie, New York, NY February 25, 2018
The aromatabs are a life saver. Finally able to complete my first MRI in 5 years.
“The aromatabs are a life saver. I was trampled 5 years ago at a sporting event and have been unable to complete an MRI ever since due to my anxiousness and fear of tight spaces. I was sitting in the room waiting, losing my mind because I forgot my Valium when I saw the sign about aromatabs. The tech gave me one and it made a world of difference and I was finally able to complete my first MRI in 5 years. Thanks.” — Kisha, Greenbelt, MD, February 23, 2018
Excellent for relief from queasiness and anxiousness!
“I was given an Elequil tab when I experienced anxiousness, lightheadedness, and queasiness while having an IV inserted for a hospital procedure. I don't have a history of difficulty with medical procedures, so I wasn't prepared for this kind of reaction, and I was so relieved when the nurse brought me an orange-peppermint Elequil aromatab to ease my discomfort. Within minutes, I was no longer nauseated and felt deeply relaxed. I took note of the brand and ordered some as soon as I got home. What a wonderful product.” — L. Hooper, New York, NY, January 31, 2018
Quickly turning a potential negative experience into a positive one
The common thread in each of these testimonials is that the perception of quality care could have easily gone in the negative column. However, the two facilities they visited New York Presbyterian and Progressive Radiology for their healthcare were able to quickly convert that potential bad experience into a positive and memorable one with the help of Elequil®.
They "wowed" their patients with empathy and quality care and you can too.
Elequil is used in over 1200 hospitals nation-wide in areas such as MRI, Pre & Post Op, ICU, Emergency, Radiology, Cancer Centers, Labor & Delivery, Quiet At Night Programs, Hospice, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living and system-wide Integrative Medicine Programs just to name a few.